Exactly two weeks ago, I was in the hospital in South Austin, recovering from the hysterectomy my gynecologist performed. To be exact, I was in the recovery room with my husband, Bryan, trying to wake up from the anesthesia. I stayed in the hospital overnight because, in fact, I couldn’t wake up and my bladder wasn’t cooperating.
This two weeks has flown by so fast. In a word, I feel GREAT compared to back then. I’ve been focused on recovery so I intentionally chose to use food and rest as the medicine my body needs to heal. This is a disclaimer that I may go into some detail providing updates on my anatomy so please continue to read if you’d like. As I’ve navigated information over the year on the hysterectomy, all it entails, and menopause, it was this kind of information I’m sharing that I longed to read about, but there’s not much of it. I hope this will be helpful for some of you.
Some signs of progress are I no longer have the giant, scary, black bruise on the left side of my waist, my four incisions are healing, I have lots of energy, I’m able to prep meals for myself, I can get in and out of bed effortlessly, and the previous sharp pain in my abdomen is now a dull afterthought. My bladder and bowels are operating smoothly. I can cough, sneeze, and laugh without holding my abdomen in pain. I can bend over and put on my shoes. Bryan was doing this for me. I’m able to do light exercises, including using free weights which I started on Sunday. I’ve gotten four days of exercise in already. Byran and I took a 20 minute walk in our neighborhood today. It’s gloriously sunny with temperatures in the high 60s.
My resting heart rate is back to presurgery levels which is a relief because it’s lower than it was in the days after I had the surgery. My last blood pressure (BP) reading at home was about 116/62. My BP has always been low and doctors have told me over the years it’s excellent, but it’s been lower than my normal. My Fitbit recorded 9 hours and 13 minutes of sleep last night, which is a far cry from my averages in December and early January.
I have not had a single menopausal symptom I can think of aside from no longer having a menstrual cycle. I point this out because I had a complete hysterectomy with my uterus, both ovaries, the fallopian tubes, and cervix removed. As Bryan said, “I guess the body needs time to heal when you literally have organs removed”. The little blood I shedded in the days after surgery has disappeared. At this point, my use of panty liners is just a habit.
I mentioned in my blog post Fight I was on a hormone medication for four months in 2021, which was aimed at shrinking my fibroids prior to the surgery. That medication also causes menopausal symptoms and I displayed most of them from July through December 2021, specifically hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, memory problems, weight gain, and mood changes. I haven’t experienced any of the symptoms since the surgery and I hope it stays that way. Even if not, I’ve done some research on menopause and what lifestyle changes I need to prioritize to manage it because hormone replacement therapy is not an option for me due to my breast cancer history. I learned women who no longer produce estrogen are at higher risks for heart and bone problems, and even dementia, so I wrote down a plan for myself.
One of the best things I’ve done for myself was practice a mostly vegan/plant-based diet for over 7 months prior to the surgery. It’s second nature to me now and I’ve gotten into the habit of viewing how food can heal me. I’ve also increased my water consumption. Though I still eat foods like salmon and chicken on occassion, I’m reaping the benefits of eating a variety of foods of all colors, which fuels my body with the nutrients it needs. I’ve learned women in menopause need foods mostly composed of antioxidants and flavinoids. We also need nutrients like Vitamins C, D, E, K, and magnesium. We need iron and calcium. We need supplements like probiotics, evening primrose oil, and collagen. This is not a comprehensive list, but what I prioritize for my particular body.
Exercise has also been very important to me for over twenty years. It’s more than a habit…it’s a lifestyle choice I decided to maintain. My fitness level prior to surgery may be a factor in why I’m healing so well. Plus, I just can’t got for long periods without exercising. I enjoy it and it keeps anxiety in check.
I do need to reduce stress in my life. Although it took me having a major life altering surgery to do it, I’m so grateful to have four weeks off work to recover and destress. If my doctor says I need longer, I’ve earned the accumulated time at work to recovery for as long as I need to. Work is at the top of the list of the most stressful areas in my life and I’ve been taking notes on how to better manage when I return.
I felt so great yesterday after a workout and a shower that I took a couple of photos of myself sans makeup. I don’t think I look like I had this major surgery merely two weeks ago. As I told Bryan, I’m not at 100% of myself yet, but I’m getting there. I’m also pacing myself. I’ve experimented by not taking pain medications for a few days, but I needed them yesterday, so I took them. I’m still not able to lie down flat, but I’m working towards it. I got a little winded on our walk this afternoon, but I sat down when I got home. I’ll get back to me soon enough, day by day.
Whatever you’re facing, I hope I’m empowering you to face your fears and take the steps you need to make your life better….whatever that is. In an exercise program I do occassionally on YouTube called BodyGroove, the instructor jokingly says to the effect of , “No one can shake your booty for you…only you can do that”. So do what you’ve got to do cause only you can do it. Speaking of which, I hope to be shaking my booty with some Zumba fitness in a couple of weeks.
Until next time…